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Jon White: Starlet Selections, Plus 2024 Kentucky Derby Top 10

by Jon White

December 7, 2023

In December 1973, Time magazine called streaking “a growing Los Angeles-area fad” that was “catching on among college students and other groups.”

By February 1974, streaking had become a nationwide fad. Indeed, streaking did occur on my college campus at Eastern Washington University early in 1974. The college newspaper, The Easterner, did cover streaking. Did I do any streaking? No. But as the college paper’s sports editor, I did write some about horse racing.

“It looks like this Saturday’s historic 100th running of the Kentucky Derby will be one heck of a horse race, the centennial Run for the Roses looking like some sort of cavalry charge or stampede,” I wrote in my sports column. “Anywhere from 20-28 contestants will be on the post parade when the band strikes up the nostalgic favorite, ‘My Old Kentucky Home.’ This year may see a record number of entries as in the past 99 years of the famous race, the largest previous field was 22 in 1928.”

How many college newspapers have ever had horse racing written about?

It turned out that the 1974 Kentucky Derby did have a field of 23, which remains the largest number of starters in its history. Cannonade won, thanks in large measure to a great ride by Angel Cordero Jr.

My top pick was Agitate, who was ridden by Bill Shoemaker and finished third. Coming in fifth was Little Current, who had a horrendous trip. Little Current would go on to win the Preakness Stakes by seven lengths and the Belmont Stakes by the same margin.

Forty years after Time magazine called streaking a fad that was catching on with college students and other groups, Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert hopes to do some streaking of his own at Los Alamitos this Saturday (Dec. 9).

No, do not look for the white-haired conditioner to shed his clothes and streak through the grandstand and the Vessels Club, though imagine the commotion that would cause. Baffert’s will be “streaking,” so to speak, if either one of the two fillies he trains wins Saturday’s Grade II Starlet Stakes for 2-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles.

If Nothing Like You or Grazia are victorious in the Starlet, it will extend Baffert’s Starlet winning streak to seven.

The streak of Baffert’s Starlet wins began with Dream Tree in 2017, then continued with Chasing Yesterday in 2018, Bast in 2019, Varda in 2020, Eda in 2021 and Faiza last year.

Baffert also won three renewals of the Starlet when it was run at Hollywood Park. Those three winners were Excellent Meeting in 1998, Habibti in 2001 and Streaming in 2013.

I’m going with Nothing Like You as my top pick in this year’s Starlet. The Kentucky-bred filly is seeking her third straight win. After a 6 1/2-length maiden victory in a one-mile race at Santa Anita on Oct. 14, she won Del Mar’s seven-furlong Desi Arnaz Stakes by a nose on Nov. 18.

Nothing Like You’s 77 Beyer for her maiden win and 78 Beyer for taking the Desi Arnaz are the two highest figures in the Starlet field.

Grazia goes into the Starlet off a stylish 3 1/4-length win at first asking in a six-furlong maiden sprint at Del Mar on Nov. 12. The Kentucky-bred Uncle Mo filly was sent away as a 2-5 favorite.

Nothing Like You’s sire is Malibu Moon. Grazia’s dam, Tonasah, is by Malibu Moon.

I think Chatalas (pictured above) merits much respect in the Starlet.

Trained by Mark Glatt, who topped the standings at the recent Santa Anita autumn meet, Chatalas won Santa Anita’s Grade II Chandelier Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on Oct. 7. I bet on her that day. The Kentucky-bred Gun Runner filly was 6-1 when I put $100 to win on her a few minutes before post time, though I then was not pleased to see her odds drop to 5-1, then 9-2, then 4-1, then 7-2, then finally to 3-1, an occurrence that happens way too often these days.

Chatalas showed speed to get the early lead when she won the Chandelier by 1 1/2 lengths. She had raced close to the early pace when sprinting in her two previous starts.

But in her next start after the Chandelier, Chatalas pretty much was taken out of her game when wiped out in the opening few strides. She was “jostled hard between rivals at the start,” according to the Equibase chart, which resulted in Chatalas racing ninth and 10th in the early going.

“She really didn’t have a chance in the Breeders’ Cup,” Glatt said when I chatted with him in the morning at Clockers’ Corner three days after the race at Santa Anita.

Great Forty Eight, trained by Tim Yakteen, lost her first three races. The Kentucky-bred Constitution filly won a one-mile maiden affair by 1 3/4 lengths at Del Mar on Nov. 12. That victory came after she had finished second, 6 1/4 lengths behind Nothing Like You, at Santa Anita.

Below are my Starlet Stakes selections:

1. Nothing Like You
2. Chatalas
3. Grazia
4. Great Forty Eight


I was in the Hollywood Park press box way back in 1981 for the inaugural running of the Hollywood Starlet Stakes. This race is known as just the Starlet Stakes these days. Why? The race is now run at Los Alamitos instead of at Hollywood Park, where SoFi Stadium now stands.

I was a writer covering the Southern California tracks for Daily Racing Form in 1981.

What do I remember about that first Hollywood Starlet? I bet $1,000 to win on Glen Hill Farm’s Header Card and she finished second as the 3-5 favorite. Fred Hooper’s Skillful Joy prevailed by one length at 7-1.

Yes, it was no fun losing a grand on Header Card that day. But I could take solace that even though I lost that wager, I was way ahead when betting on Header Card that year.

One morning early in the Oak Tree meeting at Santa Anita in the fall of 1981, I interviewed Header Card’s trainer, David Kassen, at his Santa Anita barn. I had never talked to Kassen before. When the interview was over, I thanked him for his time and when I started to walk away, he said to me, “By the way, do you ever bet?”

That question took me by surprise.

“Yes, I do,” I admitted.

“Well, this Quack filly I have, Header Card, you can bet whatever you want on her the next time she runs,” Kassen said.

“Thank you,” I said. “I appreciate it.”

Prior to that, Header Card had started once, finishing third as the 7-5 favorite in a six-furlong maiden race at Del Mar on Aug. 31.

After my visit with Kassen, Header Card ran in a one-mile maiden race at Santa Anita on Oct. 9. She was backed down to 7-10 favoritism, which included $1,000 of my money. A $1,000 wager in 1981 would be roughly the equivalent to $3,384 today when adjusted for inflation.

With future Hall of Fame jockey Darrel McHargue aboard, Header Card led all the way and won comfortably by 2 3/4 lengths. After leaving the track that day, I made my way over to the J.C. Penney store in the mall next to the track and bought a RCA color television, which became known as the “Header Card TV.”

It was like the 1969 Bonneville Pontiac that I had once bought. That car became known to my family and friends as “Lak a Boss.” I purchased that car with the money I had made from betting on Lak a Boss when he won a six-furlong starter allowance rac at Yakima Meadows in the fall of 1974 (his 10th victory the year).

After Header Card’s color-TV-producing maiden win, she romped to an 8 1/2-length triumph as a 4-5 favorite in the 1 1/16-mile Augury Stakes at Santa Anita on Oct. 21. I also bet $1,000 to win on her that day.

And I again bet $1,000 to win on Header Card when she took the Grade I Oak Leaf Stakes by 1 1/2 lengths as an 8-5 favorite at Santa Anita on Nov. 7.

And so it was that even though I lost $1,000 on Header Card in the 1981 Hollywood Starlet Stakes, she did not owe me any money.


Tis the holiday season. Tis also the time for my first Top 10 for the 150th running of the Kentucky Derby next May 4.

1. NASH. Trainer Brad Cox.

I loved Nash’s 10 1/4-length maiden win in a 1 1/16-mile maiden race at Churchill Downs on Nov. 12. He recorded a serious 95 Beyer Speed Figure. In my eyes, it’s a 95+ because he was geared down late, which the Beyers do not take into account.

A Kentucky-bred Medaglia d’Oro colt, Nash finished second, 5 1/4 lengths behind Booth, when unveiled in a six-furlong maiden contest at Keeneland on Oct. 7.

It is a bit disconcerting to me that Booth subsequently finished fifth as a 3-5 favorite in the 6 1/2-furlong Ed Brown Stakes at Churchill on Nov. 25. After a 96 Beyer Speed Figure when victorious at first asking, Booth plummeted to an 80 in his Nov. 25 defeat.

But I’m still very high on Nash off his dominant maiden score over the same oval on which the 2024 Run for the Roses will be held. Making Nash’s graduation from the maiden ranks all the more impressive, among the vanquished was Be You, who previously had finished fourth in the Grade I Hopeful Stakes and third in the Grade I American Pharoah Stakes.

It’s clear that Cox also is very high on Nash.

“I like him a lot,” Cox was quoted as saying in an article this week written by Daily Racing Form’s Marcus Hersh. “He’s the best [2-year-old] I got for sure.”

Hersh reported that Nash is scheduled to make his stakes debut in Fair Grounds’ Gun Runner at 1 1/16 miles on Dec. 23.

Epicenter, trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, won the 2021 Gun Runner on his way to becoming the Eclipse Award-winning 3-year-old male of 2022.

Jace’s Road won the 2022 Gun Runner for Cox. Jace’s Road subsequently finished fifth in the Grade III Southwest Stakes, third in the Grade II Louisiana Derby and 17th in the Kentucky Derby when last seen under silks.

2. FIERCENESS. Trainer Todd Pletcher.

No doubt Fierceness is going to top most early Kentucky Derby lists following his sparkling 6 1/4-length win in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at 1 1/16 miles at Santa Anita on Nov. 3. His 105 Beyer for that performance is the top figure for a 2-year-old male or female so far in 2023.

I made Fierceness 6-1 on the morning line for the BC Juvenile. He was allowed to get away at 16-1, a juicy price undoubtedly stemming mainly from his 20 1/4-length defeat on a sloppy track as a 1-2 favorite in the Grade I Champagne.

I think many people overreacted negatively to Fierceness’ poor performance in the Champagne. It was just one bad race after the Kentucky-bred City of Light colt had looked sensational in his 11 1/4-length debut victory on a muddy track at Saratoga.

Now I’m wondering if maybe, just maybe, many people are overreacting positively to Fierceness’ impressive performance in the BC Juvenile. As they say, time will tell. Don’t forget that in the 40-year history of the Breeders’ Cup, Street Sense and Nyquist are the only two winners of the Juvenile who went on to capture the Kentucky Derby.

3. NYSOS. Trainer Bob Baffert.

There is much to like here. Nysos won a six-furlong maiden race by 10 1/2 lengths in the fast time of 1:08.97 when debuting at Santa Anita on Oct. 21. Proving that was not a fluke, he then won Del Mar’s Grade III Bob Hope Stakes by 8 3/4 lengths when completing seven furlongs in an excellent 1:21.71 on Nov 19. Nysos followed a 96 Beyer Speed Figure in his debut with a 97 in the Bob Hope.

As it currently stands, Nysos or any other horse trained by Baffert, will need to be transferred to another trainer at some point in order to become eligible to earn qualifying points toward the 2024 Kentucky Derby.

Last July 3, Churchill Downs Incorporated announced it was “extending the suspension of Bob Baffert through calendar year 2024 based on continued concerns regarding the threat to the safety and integrity he poses to CDI-owned racetracks.”

Baffert’s ban from racing horses at CDI-owned tracks stems from the 2021 Kentucky Derby in which the Baffert-trained Medina Spirit finished first but tested positive for the presence of betamethasone, a medication that is legal to use, but not on race day. In terms of Nysos and any other Baffert trainee vis-a-vis the 2024 Kentucky Derby, keep in mind that earlier this year Churchill imposed a Feb. 28 deadline for “horses under the care of any suspended trainer or affiliates” to be transferred to a non-suspended trainer in order for the horse to become eligible to earn qualifying points to run in the 2023 Kentucky Derby.

4. LOCKED. Trainer Todd Pletcher.

I installed Locked as the 3-1 morning-line favorite in the BC Juvenile. The Kentucky-bred Gun Runner colt finished third as the 2-1 favorite. Well off the pace in the early stages, Locked never threatened in the BC Juvenile, though he did come home well enough to finish third, 6 1/4 lengths behind Fierceness.

Locked posted a 96 Beyer Speed Figure when a 7 1/4-length Saratoga maiden winner at second asking. He then was credited with a 93 Beyer when he won Keeneland’s Grade I Breeders’ Futurity by a half-length despite a wide trip.

5. THE WINE STEWARD. Trainer Michael Maker.

A New York-bred Vino Rosso colt, The Wine Steward has three wins and a second from four starts. A six-length maiden winner at Belmont Park in his first race in May, he then won the Bashford Manor Stakes at Ellis Park and Funny Cide Stakes at Saratoga before finishing second in the Grade I Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland. He lost the Breeders’ Futurity by only a half-length to Locked.

The Wine Steward was scratched from the BC Juvenile. Inasmuch as I haven’t seen any reports as to why he was scratched or any updates as to his current status, I will be keeping an eye out for any news or for him to hopefully pop up on the work tab at some point.

6. EL CAPI. Trainer Rick Dutrow Jr.

A dazzling debut winner at Aqueduct last Saturday (Dec. 2), El Capi is a very talented colt, or at least it appears to be the case to me. Dashing immediately to the front in a 7-furlong maiden race on a muddy track, he led by four lengths early and went on to win by 9 1/2.

Will El Capi win the Kentucky Derby at 1 1/4 miles? Probably not. But I wouldn’t rule it out following his big maiden victory in which he was credited with a 99 Beyer Speed Figure. His 99 Beyer is higher than the 96 and 97 figures recorded by the aforementioned Nysos in his two races to date.

A lot of people understandably feel Hoist the Gold deserves praise for his front-running 4 1/2-length victory in the Grade II Cigar Mile for 3-year-olds and up at the Big A on the same card as El Capi’s maiden win.

Take a look at the fractional times set by 2-year-old El Capi and 4-year-old Hoist the Gold last Saturday:

First quarter-mile: :22.03 El Capi, :22.41 Hoist the Gold

First half-mile: :44.73 El Capi, :44.88 Hoist the Gold

First six furlongs: 1:08.77 El Capi, 1:09.04 Hoist the Gold

El Capi’s final time for seven furlongs was 1:21.99. Hoist the Gold ran seven furlongs in 1:21.33 before completing his one-mile trip in 1:34.28.

Based on time, it’s not entirely ludicrous to think El Capi might -- repeat, might -- have been competitive in the Cigar Mile. No, he certainly wouldn’t have won it. But he might have hit the board or least finished in the top half of the field of 12.

El Capi’s win reminded me of another maiden victory on a wet track at Santa Anita on Feb. 2, 2019. After losing his first four starts, Omaha Beach finally earned his maiden diploma by splashing his way home to a nine-length win on a sloppy track.

Take a look at the fractional times set by 2-year-old El Capi and 3-year-old Omaha Beach in his maiden win:

First quarter-mile: :22.03 El Capi, :21.75 Omaha Beach

First half-mile: :44.73 El Capi, :43.67 Omaha Beach

First six furlongs: :1:08.77 El Capi, :1:08.24 Omaha Beach

Final time seven furlongs: 1:21.99 El Capi, 1:21.02 Omaha Beach

Omaha Beach followed his maiden victory by winning a division of the Grade II Rebel Stakes and the Grade I Arkansas Derby, both at Oaklawn Park. He was made the morning-line favorite in the Kentucky Derby, but was scratched due to an entrapped epiglottis.

Away from the races until the fall, Omaha Beach returned to win the Grade I Santa Anita Sprint Championship in early October. That was followed by a runner-up effort to Spun to Run in the Grade I BC Dirt Mile in early November.

In what would be Omaha Beach’s final career start, he ran seven furlongs in 1:22.23 to win Santa Anita’s Grade I Malibu Stakes by 2 3/4 lengths on Dec. 28, 2019.

El Capi’s sire is Maclean’s Music. Consequently, there is a question as to whether El Capi will possess the stamina to win long races.

Maclean’s Music won his only start in jaw-dropping fashion at Santa Anita on March 19, 2011.

“At the quarter pole, Maclean’s Music led Flightofalifetime by 1 1/2 lengths,” I wrote of Maclean’s Music’s debut victory for Xpressbet.com. “Maclean’s Music zipped the first half in an eye-popping :43.48. After that, Maclean’s Music shook clear. Despite running so fast early, Maclean’s Music drew away in the stretch to win by 7 1/2 lengths. Even though the bay colt was taken in hand late, he completed six furlongs in a sizzling 1:07.44 after recording a five-furlong time of :55.05.”

Maclean’s Music recorded a gigantic 114 Beyer Speed Figure. However, he would never race again. He was retired to stud due to complications from splint bone surgery.

There is some hope that El Capi might be able to have success beyond sprinting in that Maclean’s Music has sired a winner of the 1 3/16-mile Preakness Stakes in Cloud Computing. Also, the way I see it, Flatter being El Capi’s broodmare sire is helpful stamina-wise.

Flatter had the stamina to win a 1 1/8-mile allowance race on the dirt at Arlington Park in 2022 by a widening 11 1/2 lengths. He sired Flat Out, a two-time winner (2011-12) of the Grade I Jockey Club Gold Cup at 1 1/4 miles.

Flatter’s sire, A.P. Indy, and paternal grandsire, the great Seattle Slew, both had the stamina to win the 1 1/2-mile Belmont Stakes.

I think Dutrow’s horsemanship also is a plus in terms of El Capi possibly being capable of winning at 1 1/8 miles or maybe even 1 1/4 miles.

Dutrow managed to win this year’s BC Classic at 1 1/4 miles with White Abarrio. Dutrow also won the 2005 BC Classic with Saint Liam. And, of course, Dutrow probably is best known for winning the 2008 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes with Big Brown.

7. MUTH. Trainer Bob Baffert.

A $2 million auction purchase, Muth finished a well-beaten second in the BC Juvenile after winning Santa Anita’s Grade I American Pharoah Stakes by 3 3/4 lengths.

Muth is a Kentucky-bred Good Magic colt. Good Magic finished second to Justify in the 2018 Kentucky Derby.

8. SIERRA LEONE. Trainer Chad Brown.

A $2.3 million auction acquisition, Sierra Leone won a one-mile maiden race by 1 1/4 lengths in his first career start on Nov. 4 at Aqueduct.

Sierra Leone then narrowly lost the Grade II Remsen Stakes at 1 1/8 miles on a muddy track last Saturday at the Big A. Far back early, the Kentucky-bred Gun Runner colt closed with a rush to put a head in front a furlong out when wresting the lead away from Dornoch. Sierra Leone appeared on his way to victory when increasing his advantage to a length or so momentarily in the final furlong, only to then get nosed out for the win by a re-rallying Dornoch.

Talk about dramatic improvement in the Beyer Speed Figure department. After recording a 71 Beyer in his maiden win, Sierra Leone took a giant leap to a 91 in the Remsen.

9. DORNOCH. Trainer Danny Gargan.

Dornoch is a full brother to 2023 Kentucky Derby winner Mage.

The same week it was announced that Mage had been retired from racing, Dornoch registered his first stakes win by taking the Grade II Remsen Stakes in a resolute manner last Saturday.

After relinquishing the lead to Sierra Leone with a furlong to go and dropping about a length behind for a brief time in the last furlong, Dornoch resolutely came back on to eke out a nose victory.

Dornoch, who like Muth is a Kentucky-bred Good Magic colt, sports an improving Beyer Speed Figure pattern of 70, then 77, then 90, then 91 in the Remsen.

10. TIMBERLAKE. Trainer Brad Cox.

Rank while sixth early in the BC Juvenile, Timberlake failed to generate a late kick and finished fourth, eight lengths behind the victorious Fierceness. But bear in mind that Timerlake finished only 1 3/4 lengths behind runner-up Muth and 1 1/4 lengths behind third-place Locked.

Timberlake went into the BC Juvenile off a 4 1/4-length victory on a sloppy track in the Grade I Champagne at Aqueduct. His performance in the Champagne produced a 93 Beyer, a figure that he matched in the BC Juvenile.